Lately, I’ve seen a lot of anti-bullying campaigns spreading awareness in schools, and I think it’s great. As a kid, I, like many others, had my fair share of being bullied, and it’s good to know that teachers, parents, and other kids are taking measures to stop it.
Kids tend to make fun of each other for all kinds of reasons. When I was a kid, I was bullied for my clothes, my curly hair, my weight, my Simba backpack, and my love for books, among other things.
While the bullying I experienced was not excessive and did not cause me as much emotional pain as I know it does others, the bullying I dealt with was unique because I was an easy target. My shyness basically gave bullies a free pass. It was win-win for them because I was too shy to say anything back to them, and I was too shy to tell the teacher or playground monitor. I didn’t stand up for myself; I just let it happen until the bullies got bored and found a new target.
In preschool, I had my first bullying experience. Another little girl grabbed onto my wrist really hard at recess and wouldn’t let me go, dragging me around the playground and telling me what to do. I simply complied. She even hung on to me and bossed me around once we got inside the classroom. Finally, one of the teachers separated us and sent us both to time-out. The girl was sent there for holding onto my wrist and bossing me around, and I was sent to the corner because I didn’t tell her to stop. No joke. I was punished for not stopping her behavior.
Even though I view that experience as unjust, it’s one of the truths of life. If we let other people bully us, we, the victims, also have to live with consequences, such as a fear of others, poor self-image, and a lack of confidence.
Now that I am an adult, karma has done wonders for me. In college I finally reached what our shallow culture deems “attractive,” and I am no longer overweight. I have achieved a great deal in my schooling and passions, and I’m engaged. My curly hair and my love for books and Simba accessories are actually considered cool now by my peers.
But here’s the big however:
I’m still shy and submissive, so I still get bullied as an adult.
I want to be clear and say that nothing, not even excessive shyness, justifies bullying. Being shy makes me a target, but it doesn’t make bullying okay. It didn’t when I was a kid, and it doesn’t now.
Imagine my surprise, though, when I discovered that I could still get bullied as an adult. Really? But, I am pretty. People like me and think I am cool. I have a job and a hot fiancé. We’re adults. We’re equals, right? We aren’t supposed to make fun of each other. That’s for kids, right?
I have legally been an adult for seven years now, and I can say with certainty (and sadness) that bullying doesn’t just “end” because you grow up.
As a shy adult, I am just as easy of a target as I was as a shy kiddo.
I may not get my pigtails pulled or my lunch money stolen, but I get bullied.
The following are the two most common ways that adults have bullied me:
Adults are really good at “using their words.” People have made snide remarks to me with the façade of “just joking” or, my favorite, “just saying.” People have spread rumors — nasty, untrue rumors — about me, like my ex broke up with me because I’m mentally ill and I lost weight because I had an eating disorder. Adults are careful with words, though. They don’t call you names to your face, usually. They talk behind your back or post vague things on Facebook that indirectly insult you, and those are people I knew. Strangers have bullied me from time to time as well. For instance, when I worked as a barista, several customers would become verbally abusive if I was taking too long with their latte.
2) By Taking Advantage
Since being an adult, I’ve had many people take advantage of me, and I regret not fighting back. Guys have gone too far physically, even when I had told them to back off. When I was an intern for a theatre company one summer, I worked hard making an elaborate, artistic, informative display for the lobby. The night before the show, the photographer for the play tore down everything I had done in order to put up her photographs. I found the $100+ worth of materials from Michael’s (that I had purchased with my own money) stuffed in the lobby wastebasket. She must have been absent in preschool during the “sharing” lesson.
A while back, my four “friends,” my roommates at the time, even kicked me out of our apartment because I was no longer hanging out with them, and they felt “uncomfortable” with me living there. I moved out, but later my dad informed me that what they did was actually illegal! If you are paying rent and have a lease agreement, you cannot get evicted for the simple reason of “we aren’t friends anymore.” At the time, I just let it happen.
What I’m getting at is this: Bullying is wrong; it comes in different forms, it happens to adults, and, if it’s happening to you, it’s not your fault. But as an adult, I so wish that I had stood up for myself more when I was a kid. Maybe if I had gotten good at it then, I could have avoided getting hurt so much now.
It’s okay to be shy and quiet, but don’t be shy and quiet about bullying. Tell someone. Tell your teacher and your parents. If your school has an anti-bullying campaign, get involved. Even if you’re not getting bullied, chances are that one of your friends is.
Learn a few assertive phrases, like the ones suggested in Psychology Today, and get good at saying them:
- “I didn’t appreciate ____ (what you did, your tone of voice).”
- “I disagree with you. I see the situation this way.”
- “I would like you to respect my point of view.”
- “I feel offended by your remark.”
I don’t want to scare anyone. Being an adult rocks. I like it significantly better than being a kid; but, just like fond childhood memories, bad experiences and habits from childhood can also follow us. Adults who bully each other are acting like children. Don’t give them the satisfaction of acting like one, too.
*For more info on dealing with bullying, visit these articles written by my fellow Germs: